/ 8 July 2024

Numsa warns of indefinite strike against Gautrain operator, starting Monday

Gautrain management has expressed dismay that its staff allegedly encouraged passengers to disembark and walk along the tracks after a train broke down between Pretoria and Johannesburg.
Numsa is demanding a 9% wage increase across the board and a medical aid contribution of 60%. File photo

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has said it it will strike indefinitely against the management of Gautrain operator Bombela Operating Company (BOC) from Monday, which may affect commuters. 

Numsa said it failed to reach a deal with the operating company over wages. 

Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, the national spokesperson for Numsa, told the Mail & Guardian that they have shifted their demands for a wage increase across the board from 13% to 9%, but they are still demanding a medical aid contribution of 60% by the BOC, while the employee will contribute the remaining 40%. They are also demanding a housing allowance of R2000 per employee per month. 

There was a deadlock in the last meeting on 11 June, after two rounds of talks that started on 17 April.

“The bosses refuse to meet our demands and this has led to workers resorting to strike action. It is an indefinite strike until the demands are met,” said Hlubi-Majola.

She said Numsa represent 286 workers of the 300 staff at Gautrain, including drivers, customer service agents and maintenance. The members had been picketing since Monday morning.

Gautrain spokesperson Kesagee Nayager said services had not been impacted by the Numsa strike and train and bus services were operating as usual due to contingency plans.

Numsa signed a one-year wage deal with Gautrain management in July 2023 which expired last month. It included an 8% wage increase across the board, a 10% increase in housing allowance, a 5% transport allowance, a R500 increase for performance bonus, a night shift allowance of R35 an hour and for the Gautrain staff card to remain in place. 

Numsa is also calling for fair remuneration for working overtime without compensation. 

According to the Numsa statement, the BOC was initially a five-day operation, and then changed to a six-day operation without compensating workers for the extra work. 

“Workers have not been remunerated for these additional hours and we are demanding that they must be compensated for this. And going forward, they must be paid the overtime rate for the sixth day.”

Numsa is also demanding bonuses for blue-collar workers and the right to be represented by trade unions. 

Hlubi-Majola said Gautrain management and others rewarded themselves with a R22 000 bonus, which they didn’t extend to other workers.

“So, the question our members are asking is why is it that some people in Gautrain get a guaranteed bonus regardless of what the performance is, whilst others have to perform before they get a bonus? What we want is equality for all workers.”

“Either everybody gets a guaranteed bonus or everybody is on a performance bonus. This can’t be the situation where some get and others don’t,” she said. 

In June, Gautrain marked 14 years of operation. Its network includes 10 stations that connect Johannesburg, Pretoria, Ekurhuleni and OR Tambo International Airport, 96 rail cars, a fleet of 125 heavy haul buses and 29 midi-buses.

The concession agreement between the Gauteng government and the BOC comes to an end in 2026. The Gautrain Management Agency has started inviting bids for the next concessionaire, according to a statement published on its website

Numsa said while it apologises to the 40 000 daily commuters who use the services, the union had been “forced into taking this drastic course of action”.